Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Gears of War 2 - Title Update 2 Impressions: Multiplayer is BACK!

I have to admit, it's pretty funny to be so psyched up about a patch for Gears of War 2. We're not really talking about an expansion here or a map pack...it's a PATCH/UPDATE for the multiplayer mode.

Gears of War 2 may win accolades for its single player campaign, and Horde Mode is one of the best innovations introduced to the series....but a lot of players moved on after that, instead of investing a lot of time in the Multiplayer Mode. I recall with Gears of War 1, I spent a whole lot of time with that game (lag issues and all) because the gameplay felt quite good. The bullets would lag but you could predict the timing and at some point you could get good at the game even with the problems online.

With Gears of War 2, there seemed to be many problems plaguing it. I'm not the first to complain about the decreased power of the Gnasher shotgun at close quarters. Another observation by some players is that running with the chainsaw seemed too effective a tactic, and it seemed to have cheapened the game and reduced it to a mere chainsaw fest.

After two updates, Epic Games seems to have figured out what's wrong with the game, and fixed it.

So when I played the game this evening, I felt like I was playing Gears 2 Multiplayer for the first time....this experience was how it SHOULD have been, that day I first bought the game and tried the online multiplayer mode. Now, it really works great.....here are some impressions:

1. The Gnasher shotgun now works well in close quarters....actually, the way it works is somewhere between the way it worked in Gears 1 and the way it used to work in Gears 2 before the patch. With Gears 2 originally, it seemed to be an unwieldy weapon at close quarters. I'm not sure if it's latency but definitely the behavior seemed different. The weapon felt weaker and not so useful when you're one on one with another player.

With the patch, it's different. It won't grant you an instant kill when you blindfire, but it seems more effective when you do blindfire. I noticed I was downing more players with the shotgun than before. In one instance I was able to kill instantly but it was a well aimed shot. Considering how laggy a connection based in the Philippines can get, it is a real improvement. Before the patch I would find myself using the shotgun point blank at someone and it really wouldn't hit (no blood splatter, no stagger on your opponent).....but this time, it really does work. So the shotgun is a useful weapon once more :)

2. Rushing with the chainsaw can now be easily countered by the Lancer. Before the patch, when you're shooting someone rushing in /roadie running at you, they could still easily reach you and chainsaw you up close. With this new patch, it's much easier to stop someone who is roadie running towards you with any weapon. I noticed I made many opponents stagger when they tried rushing at me to go for an easy chainsaw kill.

It seems many of the players didnt realize this new behavior yet, so I noticed a lot of online players will still try for the easy rush and chainsaw attack. It does not work anymore....so if you see someone try it on you, counterattack with whichever weapon you have. You should survive unscathed.

Another thing I noticed is the chainsaw battle registers better (triggering a chainsaw duel feels smoother) despite any latency that may exist between you and other players.

3. Finding a match is much, MUCH faster---even if you're with a party of friends! Later tonight I joined up with some other players from Pinoyxbox and we were all able to find matches easily. It seems closer to the speed of finding a match when you're playing Halo 3, which is definitely a good thing.

When I was playing alone it was also a bit faster to find another party of players to join with. Overall, matchmaking is definitely faster and a smoother experience.

For comparative purposes, my connection is PLDT MyDSL Plan 999 and I didn't encounter too many lag issues with Gears of War 2 with this new patch. In many ways I think it feels a lot better than my online experience with Gears 1, where the bullets would have a noticeable delay. Here, there is still a bit of delay but it's far, far reduced, and overall the experience is really better compared to when the game was originally released.

So if you're one of the people who've given up on Gears of War 2 and moved on to other games....I think this update will convince you to give the game another try. Now Gears of War 2 Multiplayer is exactly the way it should have been when the game was released November last year.

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